Sunday, 29 July 2012

Godiva Awakes

Many people have heard the legend of Lady Godiva, who rode naked through Coventry to protest against taxes for the poor. What may not be so well known is that Coventry is tying into the London 2012 Olympics by 'awakening' Lady Godiva from a 1000 year long sleep.
The Godiva Awakes ceremony happened over the last weekend in July to coincide with the opening of the games, and on Monday 30th July this fabulous animated Lady Godiva model will set off for London, powered by a 'cyclopedia' of 25 attached cycles.

This photo of me alongside Lady Godiva shows the huge scale of this fabulous engineering project.
Godiva no longer needs to ride naked as, thankfully, women today don't need to take their clothes off to make a point.

This project is not just a way for Coventry to tie in with the Olympics, although Godiva will be part of the closing day when she will be in London to hand over a book of intent containing details from all of the young people who have worked on the project for the past 2 and a half years. The Godiva Awakes project demonstrates the skills in and around Coventry, from the engineering needed to animate such a huge model, build her 'horse' shown below and link the cycles together, to the fabric making skills needed to create the undies she is wearing which were designed by the amazing Zandra Rhodes.

I was so lucky to be involved in the Godiva Awakes project as a volunteer, an opportunity that came about because I had also volunteered as a city ambassador welcoming visitors to Coventry for the Olympic football. So far I've met people from Japan, Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, Mexico and Gabon. It has been a complete privilege to be involved in these events and this summer has reminded me to be proud not just to be British but to belong to one of the best cities in the UK.

You may think that being 'sent to Coventry' is a bad thing - but believe me, we love to welcome visitors to our city so if you get the opportunity to come and visit us, please do. You may even be able to see our lovely new Lady Godiva who, over the next few years, will be having a permanent home built for her near our legendary cathedral.

One final photo of Godiva - I love this pic of her size 72 feet. I always thought my feet were big! 

Thursday, 26 July 2012

London 2012 kicks off in style

By now, most of Great Britain is in an excited state of anticipation awaiting the opening ceremony of the 30th Olympiad in London on 27th July.

But here in (very) sunny Coventry our games have already started! Whoo hoo!!!

Wednesday 25th July saw the first games of Olympic football taking place around the country.
Cardiff  ‘kicked off’ the football at 4pm but Coventry followed closely behind with the first match beginning at 5pm.
Our first match here in Coventry was a ladies match, Japan versus Canada and I was thrilled to be chosen as one of the voluntary city ambassadors on duty outside the stadium to guide the visitors to the correct place.

My day began in the sports centre at Coventry University where the volunteer ambassadors and team leaders gathered for a pre match briefing and to be assigned our posts.
Ambassadors were placed at key points in the city, for example at the rail and bus stations and at the Live Site where a giant screen will show all of the Olympic action. These volunteers were in place to greet visitors and direct them to the free shuttle bus services to the City of Coventry Stadium.

I was assigned a post at the stadium and my role, along with my ambassador partner Mike, was to generally keep the crowds happy, hand out wall charts and other information and be aware of any potential problems.

The fans began to trickle in around 3pm, having been told to allow up to two hours before the game for clearing security. Initially there was a slow but steady stream of people, a mix of Japanese and Canadian fans plus lots of Brits and a few other nationalities.

I absolutely loved being part of this special day. Talking to visitors, helping with wheelchairs, ticket enquiries, pointing people to the first aid point, steering people to security and to the correct entrance and even at one point calling for the St Johns Ambulance guys when a pregnant woman had a nose bleed. Thank goodness it was just a nosebleed – for one awful moment I thought I was going to be part of an East Enders type situation where someone gave birth while Olympic events were happening around her!

Towards the end of my six hour shift I noticed a definite change in attitude for some visitors. The day was incredibly hot and I think this contributed to a few latecomers getting frustrated with the need to pass through security and walk around the stadium to find the right entrance.
There were no real problems, just a few grumpy remarks about how they only had small bags, or mutterings about having already walked around the stadium in one direction only to be told they had passed their entrance and needed to go back.
I did feel very sorry for these guys because I know how it feels to be hot and frustrated, but all I could do was smile, sympathise and say I hoped they would enjoy the match.

My next shift is Tuesday 26th for the men’s match of Belarus v New Zealand which kicks off at 7.45pm. So if anyone out there is coming to the game let me give you a few tips:
  • ·         Everyone needs to go through security, no matter how big or small your bag is. Look for the security stations as you arrive at the stadium, don’t immediately head for your entrance as you will need to go back to be checked.
  • ·         When going through security, don’t let them seal your tickets or wallet inside the security bag (yes, this happened a lot yesterday!) You will definitely need your tickets to get into the stadium and you might need your money for any official merchandise purchases before you go inside.
  • ·         Drink lots of water as you travel but remember you can only take 100ml (hardly anything) into the stadium. There are plenty of places inside to get water so don’t be tempted to buy big bottles on the way to the stadium.
  • ·         Your tickets will tell you which stand (North, South, East or West) your seat is in. As you arrive at the stadium take note of which stand you see first. This will help you to head in the right direction. We saw so many people yesterday who arrived at the West stand and walked past North and East to get to the South. It’s a very long way around the outside of the stadium!
  • ·         Don’t bring any restricted items. Restricted item information was enclosed with tickets but includes things like golf umbrellas, vuvuzelas, drums, etc. These will be confiscated by security.
But the most important thing to remember if you are visiting is:

  • ·         Those lovely ambassadors in pink & purple have volunteered to be there to help you. Say hello and have a chat. We are looking forward to meeting you!
By the way, just in case anyone is interested, yesterday’s result was 2-1 to Japan.

Friday, 20 July 2012

A Taste of Tuscany – Zucchini Fritti with Parmesan and a Tomato Dipping Sauce.

I want to win a week in one of your Tuscany villas

I love to experiment with food, particularly Italian food. One of my favourite foodie regions is Tuscany and I previously published a recipe here  of a Tuscan Bruschetta.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a restricted diet because I’m vegetarian by choice and Gluten Free by necessity. So Tuscan recipes are often ideal for me because they focus on the freshness of the ingredients and the recipes are often simple and easy for me to translate into a version that is suitable for coeliacs.  are challenging bloggers to submit a recipe using olive oil, parmesan and tomatoes – three of the staples in my diet. In fact, I wouldn’t say I use a lot of olive oil but when I went to check that I had some in my cupboard this is what I found!

Luckily, my cupboards don’t just consist of olive oil so I was able to pull together a few other ingredients too.


My Tuscan inspired recipe below is so simple I almost feel ashamed to submit it, but in addition to being simple, it’s also delicious and makes a fabulous starter for an Italian themed meal. Additionally the various parts of this starter can be split and used separately so although each part is easy to make I’m submitting it here in the hope that it will inspire some Tuscan meals over what promises to be a scorching weekend in the UK. 

I’m going to begin with the sauce because this can be made in advance and kept in the fridge ready for use. It’s a very basic red sauce recipe that can be used with pasta dishes or used as a dipping sauce in the same way that I’ve used it here.
So, for the sauce you will need:
800g fresh tomatoes, skinned and quartered
1 onion
1 carrot
1 sprig of rosemary or 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
A handful of fresh basil leaves or 2 teaspoons of dried basil
½ teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

It’s perfectly possible to make a good basic red sauce using tinned tomatoes, so if you don’t have time to skin the fresh ones, feel free to drain 2 tins of tomatoes and use those. I find that the easiest way to remove the skins from fresh tomatoes is to pop the tomato into a jug or bowl and pour boiling water of it. then run the tomato under cold water. The skin splits and is really easy to remove.

Whether you use fresh or tinned tomatoes, put these into a saucepan with all of the other sauce ingredients. Don’t worry that there doesn’t seem to be much liquid at this stage and don’t be tempted to add more. The tomatoes will release liquid for the sauce.

Cover the pan and bring to the boil, then simmer for around 30 minutes.
Remove the lid and continue to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Remove from the heat and sieve the sauce.

 If you prefer a chunky sauce, retain some of the pulp to add back to the sauce after sieving.

This sauce can be reheated so if you want to make it in advance, my tip is to make extra and reserve some of the sauce for use with pasta. 

For the fried Zucchini you will need:
1 zucchini (courgette)- note, one courgette  will easily serve up to 4 people as a starter but if you want to be generous, use two courgettes.
1 egg
40g flour – if you are not coeliac use plain flour, I used brown rice flour
150ml milk
Sunflower or vegetable oil for frying – don’t be tempted to fry in olive oil as the oil will not heat up enough. 

For serving: salt and shredded parmesan

Use a vegetable peeler or food processor to thinly slice the zucchini. 

Separate the egg and add the yolk to the milk. Beat this together with the flour to make a smooth paste.

In a separate bowl beat the egg white until it forms soft peaks, then gently fold this into the batter mix.

Dip the zucchini slices into the batter and coat them thoroughly.
Heat the oil, ensure it is hot (you can test this by dropping one coated slice into the oil. The slice should take no more than 2 minutes to turn brown and crisp.)

Carefully lower the coated slices into the hot oil and deep fry until they are crisp and golden. Turn them frequently. 

Drain thoroughly on kitchen paper.
Sprinkle the cooked slices with salt and parmesan and serve alongside the dipping sauce.

The parmesan has a strong flavour that complements the zucchini slices perfectly. This recipe really is so simple that there are no dire warnings about how to approach it - my only warning is that these zucchini slices are so yummy that you might find yourself eating the first lot and having to make more (not that this happened to me at all you understand!) 

This starter is a perfect way to get everyone talking at the start of a meal because it's real old fashioned 'finger food' and if your 'guests' are good friends you might want to have just one bowl of sauce and a big spoon so they can help themselves from the centre of the table - or alternatively offer small bowls of sauce for each person. Oh no, just thought of one more warning - this is delicious but messy - make sure you have plenty of napkins, serviettes or just plain old kitchen roll so everyone can mop up their spills - it certainly gets everyone talking and laughing when they are dripping sauce on themselves!

I've submitted this recipe as part of the fantastic competition to win a week in a Tuscan Villa. The competition is being hosted by 'To Tuscany' and is open to anyone with a blog and closes at midnight on 21st July. Find out more from their webpage here